Deck's Like the Wind

Perhaps impatience is my fatal flaw, the thing that keeps me forever this close to complete and undying happiness, but never quite there. I’m impatient. About certain things. I’m impatient, for instance, about acquiring a cassette deck. My cassette collection is growing large. My colorful cassettes sit on my little footstool, waiting to be played, looking at me like what the hell. What the hell?

My friends tell me to wait for a Nakamichi CD-1. It’s got that thing you need. And it’s really good. It’s, all things considered, the only deck to get. I almost had one, too. On a whim, I took a look on ebay, and there it was. It was perfect. The timing was perfect. Maybe too perfect. It was right around the time that I first became really interested in tapes. I put in a bid. I thought it was a good bid, but apparently it wasn’t. Someone else wanted it more. The asshole. I should have challenged him to a duel. But I let it go, tossed it up to fate, figured I’d get another chance. I mean, if this one was so readily available, then certainly there’d be another right around the bend. There are other decks in the sea.

But, no. Life isn’t like that. You get your chances and you have to make a move fast. You may never have another chance. The stars may not align. It’s like walking out of your room to find a perfect rainbow suspended directly above you, or stepping onto the station platform just as your train is arriving: You could’ve so easily missed it.

You might’ve never known it was there!

Anyway. Growing sick of waiting for another Nakamichi CD-1, I’ve started to look elsewhere. This guy won’t wait around forever. So: What reputable companies are manufacturing cassette decks now? I’ve found a few. Sony makes the TC-WE475 ($149.95); TEAC makes the W-600R ($149), as well as a couple of others; Onkyo has the TA-RW255 ($199); and Pioneer offers the CT-W208R ($194), at the bottom of a line which rises to the powerful-looking Elite CT-05D ($350).

I realize I can probably request review samples of all of these decks. I could take them home and set them up and compare and contrast and document my profound findings here. But I don’t know if anyone in the world, other than me and maybe my mom (and only because she loves me), would even be interested in that.

What do you think? Do you know of any other cassette decks being manufactured now?

Or
should
I
wait?

COMMENTS
Dave Page's picture

Judging from the lack of comments, it seems you're right Steven -- no-one is interested :-)Having said that, there are a bunch of Nakamichi Dragons on Ebay at the moment (one for $13 (!): http://cgi.ebay.com/Nakamichi-Dragon-Cassette-Player_W0QQitemZ1804648175... ), but having owned a Nak in the 1980s beware the ever-turning capstans. I didn't know these puppies constatntly revolved when not playing, and was suprised to find my expensive cassette deck motors worn-out in a year of little or no use.Anyway, here's to Ebay and out-of-fashion audio equipment -- I just picked up a Denon DVD-1600 DVD-A player with Burr-Brown DAC for $5.50 -- I'm one of those fruitcakes who listens to home-made, MLP'd, dual-layer DVD+R DLs with ~ 13 GB of uncompressed redbook audio on them (about 500 tracks per disc): DVD blanks $1.50 ea., DVD-A player $5.50.SweetDave

rudy yniguez's picture

Good luck finding a Nak.I've owned several, and every one of them needed repairs; and not just the decks or players (Nak 250s, Nak 600 and Nak 670ZX), but Nak's 430 FM tuner. Still have the 670ZX (it squeaks), one of the 250s (the fast forward doesn't work) and the 430 (not one decent radio station in California's Imperial Valley.)aAll have/had nice specs; I just wish I could get the 670ZX and 250 in better working order without spending ~$2,000 just for the 670ZX.In the mean time, my cassettes just sit there, waiting for attention.

Dave Page's picture

Er, there was meant to be a line break between 'Sweet' and 'Dave' -- I'm not actually called Sweet Dave (anymore)

Neil's picture

Hi Stephen.Patience is its own reward. Give it time, and you never know what may turn up. E-Bay can be like waiting for a bus, you miss one and three turn up next.I bought a Sony 5000F Tuner of a guy on an Audio forum, thinking one was unlikely to turn up on E-Bay...2 weeks later 2 turn up. One sold for more than I paid for mine, the other a lot less, but it was spares or repair. Nakamichi tape decks are common enough, but I would go for one that is still serviceable, CR5e or CR7e and both of those ahead of a Dragon. Great deck, but the CR7e is better and the CR5e isn't far behind the 7..only my opinion of course (I own a CR5e). As to modern cassette decks,I would pass-on-by, they are not up to much imho. Last good modern deck was the Yamaha 580Se, but I am not sure if its still made by Yamaha. However in saying that they are common on E-Bay...and sell for very little money, great features list for recording and playback. I wish you luck in your quest, but much of the fun is in the hunt.

Lazy Boy's picture

Nak 600 and 1000 were pretty good, with superior industrial design - especially the 1000 over the top gold plating...Technics RS-M85 was another object of lust. And why not the Sony TC-D5 - which are easy to find and have a je-ne-sais-quoi...Some UHER decks were also very, very good. I have one in storage that I keep for ... I don't know why.

Bomba's picture

Cassettes? Are you serious guy? Come on, the audiophile hobby already has a serious enough credibility issue on its hands - this doesn't help instill confidence. A format whose time has come and gone and need never be revived.

Doug Bowker's picture

In order of experience and preference I'd look to get: The Nak (obviously, but as the other poster said, really make sure it works), 2)NAD made some terrific models and if I recall, some not that long ago 3)Teac, but the quality was all over the place depending on model. SOME models were considered on par with Nak, but others were cheaply made and not worth it. Also, I should mention Denon, which I happily owned for quite some time and it sounded great. But like anything, you'll get a better product if it is a SINGLE cassette deck instead of dual. For all the usual reasons that purists go for separates, the same applies to cassette decks.

mrlowry's picture

Tandberg made some great cassette decks back in the day. Nakamichi decks have a reputation for needing repair, and it is deserved plus spare parts are in extremely short supply. That having been said the sound quality was high.

Seth G.'s picture

I think its interesting to see a resurgence in cassettes and I'm all for it. I also find it even more fascinating that so many small burgeoning artists are putting things out on cassette not on downloads or cds but cassettes. I'd rather listen to something on cassette than a crummy low bit rate MP3 or the like. It also flies in the face of where commercial labels are at as well in a lot of ways circumventing that whole culture.I think what we are seeing here is very much related to the resurgence of the LP with young people. Its part counter culture but also on a path of discovery in the audio world no they aren't jumping in with high res download but they are going through the same evolution the audio world went through over the years who knows where those youngsters will be on their journey in a few years, but I have a feeling they will be more interested in the quality of the sound along with the content (or well I'm hoping!)

Paul Luscusk's picture

mrlowry is right. I own a Tandberg 440A and I'll take it over any Nak. You might look for Awia's on E bay, The 770 is a super deck. Awia was Sony's(High End line) but did not like that to get around. You could Also look for old Advent , and look at TEAC's TASCAM line I think they are still a doing " Simi Pro " decks. Say away from the regular stuff.

Cliff's picture

I've had a Sony Walkman professional WM-D6C for 20 years. None of the several other decks I've had in addition matched it's build and recording capability. Once had it serviced for cleaning. That's all. I presently use it for transferring tapes to the computer. Stereophile recommended it as all you'll really needed. And I found it so.

Gabriel Bernasconi's picture

I owned a Nakamichi 581 Z for almost 10 years and it gave me continuous satisfactory musical experience.That was in the 80's. Other cassette decks had unsatisfactory sound, lacking in the highs and low S/N ratio. To revive cassette the Nak is the way to go. Probably you don't need a C1, other models will also do.

Salih Niper's picture

After reading your blog, I was almost buying a Teac V8030S on 31st December after reading numerous reviews etc. (at 200-USD with very mint condition). I was shaken up after my wife refused to place it (she said "what the hell, shall we be downgrading while life goes on so quick?") in living room and not having enough place in my listening room.

Justin's picture

I'm sad to say this, but I tend to agree with Bomba. I was as big of a cassette freak as anyone back in the day but compared to high-res files online, and SACD? Come on, folks. Let's be serious here about what reproduces our wonderful music with the most authenticity. I think some of the tape fans are enamored of a little plastic gadget that produces a sound and not really focused on their music. There. I said it.

Joe's picture

Hey Mejias, I have some Edison wax cylinders if you REALLY want to get back to "real" sound.Maybe you could use that LP Demaggy Thingy on them and they would surpass the sound quality of the looney tunes playing in your head. Cassettes? LMAO funny stuff dude.

Jorge's picture

Regarding "...Do you know of any other cassette decks being manufactured now?". You could consider the Tascam 202mkV, which is a studio unit. Looks well built, but pricier I think, than the units you referenced.Regards

Pete's picture

Look at Vintagecassette.com; there they have many classics listed, amongst which the Lovely Arcam Delta 100; a real honey!Denons (Nippon Columbia)and NADs are very good as well.

GEORGE's picture

The downward spiral into nonsense continues. Let's discuss what other obsolete useless products? High end audio, yeah, this has become so filled with either overpriced shelf jewelery, or low end useless garbage. Each month it spirals down. Will any new AC cord bring up a 25 year old cassette deck to current digital standards? I bet someone will say so.

Trey's picture

I think some of the underground music is cassette only. You have the hardware, or you miss the tunes. It is not that the medium will ever be hifi, it is that there is music on the medium that is worth being heard.

Nick's picture

TAPE DECKS??? I love them too and my car has a cassette deck in it but why would one consider tapes when CD's offer better sound, not to mention SACD's and high rez downloads. Not sure I understand this. I see cassettes on sale at used stores but I fail to see the relevance of an older, inferior medium. Unless some bands are releasing music only on cassette? I have Luxman and Nak tape decks and love them but they barely get used.

Winston Cho's picture

Thanks for bringing back some memories! I remember lusting after the Dragon when I was a HS student and promising myself one day when I got a job and made some money I would own one of these beasts. Those dreams kind of fell by the wayside when my father purchased a brand new portable CD player for me and I became hooked on digital.

KBK's picture

I have a pioneer CT-A9 lying about that I might be able to fix up for you. It is definitely in the group that was known as 'the best'. Especially after I'm done with it....Look it up at 'The Vintage Knob' (TVK website)

Jonathan Cohen's picture

Why being so hard on tape? Christ I'm thinking about getting a Naka deck myself or any other good high-end model for a good price. Just go to the local flea market and tons and tons of tape on the cheap.

Stephen Mejias's picture

I appreciate all of the thoughtful, intelligent comments -- including the ones from those who don't share my point of view. You've given me lots to think about. Thank you. In earlier blog entries, linked to above, I have clearly stated my reasoning for wanting a tape deck. But I'll do so again, for those, such as "Joe" (Hey, Joe, I'm talking to you), who are too lazy or stupid to do the work themselves: There is music that I want to hear -- excellent music that is being released right now -- and it is available [i]only on cassette[/i]. End of story. No apologies necessary. My goal is to listen to that music on my hi-fi. The tool required is a cassette deck.

Jonathan Cohen's picture

Bingo. While I will admit that I'm 20 and new to "audiophile" sound I don't see noting wrong with tape. Then again there is no perfect format when it comes to audio so in my opinion saying one format sucks is just a moot point.Personally I can't wait for the AXPONA show, maybe I should buy a Naka deck and show it off in the show. Lets see how many heads that I turn. ;)

Nick's picture

Well there you have it Meijas needs the tape deck because there are bands out there coming out with music that is only on tape. Simple supply and demand; if you need one then go and get it. So here is my experience on this if you care to listen. I have bought a nak for 25.00 from ebay years ago that works beautifully, and came well packaged. I also picked up a beautiful rosewood k118 lux tape deck that did not work, buyer refunded me the money and told me to keep the player. I took it to a repair shop and they scratched it so sold it and got another beautiful k118 that had the same problem, took it apart and noticed that the mechanism had jammed. So much for technicians. The point being you can do very well from someone at ebay with 100% feedback and be very happy and if you are technically inclined can make a used player function like new. Love the older Lux & Tandbergs. Happy listening Meijas

PV's picture

Let's not forget Springsteen's Nebraska recorded on cassette!

DF's picture

I've been on and off looking for a deck too. I had a great Aiwa from back in the late 80's, but when I tried to fire it up after years of sitting on a shelf, it refused to budge. A inquiry suggested it's cheaper to get a new deck than revive an old one. Okay. Reasons? I have a wealth of great music on cassette, some of it completely irreplaceable in any format, that I would love to capture digitally and preserve. Hi Fi? Hell no. But it's the music that counts more than the sound here.

Doug K.'s picture

I've been picking up a few cassettes as well. I'm lucky enough to have to great shops near by that have a pretty good selection. Its a great way to roll the dice on something new(1-2 dollars). I'm using a Nak dr-3 ($30) and it would be hard to do better. Most of what Ive bought sounds really good. Good luck with your search.

John Parks's picture

Thanks for the great blogs, Stephen - I enjoy reading them and they help keep my sense of audio wonder in child-like awe, which is where it should remain (not old and stogy: "Vinyl is the only TRUE audio" and such. I have a boatload of old cassettes recorded from vinyl (and some CDs) and have been thinking about getting a deck to revel in nostalgia (ex-wife "sold" my LP collection without my knowing). The last deck I auditioned and bought was a Denon. I compared it to a Nak of the same price (nowhere near a Dragon!) and it won hands down. My studio? A 1988 Acura Integra with an after market deck, Carver amp and JBL Control 5 studio monitors on the parcel shelf. Sweet!

Joe's picture

Hey Mejias I'll be releasing some music on wire format, you know the tape decks that used to use solid wire to record on so you better go buy one of those also lol I'll only be using the highest grade of wire of course and because it's audiophile grade, I'm afraid the recordings will be priced at $100 per song but then since it's the only source for my music you would be an idiot not to rush out and buy it anyways.

Larry(Poor Audiophile)'s picture

Dude!If you want one go for it!I used to do the cassette thing. I had an Akai. Decent deck.I haven't listened to my tapes in years. I've been looking for a new disc player recently. I may buy a Cambridge Audio universal player.I don't see myself going back to tapes & yet I found myself looking on ebay after reading this blog. Huh?!If you were to review decks on here, I'd check them out.

Lawrence's picture

Ugh, Stephen, you got me thinking about the Cassette Era, and I ended up posting a bloody essay about it on the Stereophile forum. Herewith, my 2 cents regarding your quest. Late-model Yamaha decks in really swell condition can be found on eBay for the price of lunch. They'll take a beating and keep going, unlike other high-end decks, and the motors seem not to seize up with disuse. I ran 3 of them almost daily from the late 1980s to 2000, and all 3 still work and sound as good as I've ever heard a cassette deck sound. If you want a deck really built like manly pickup truck, go for a Tascam 112 or 122. Or the Denon DRM-555, which was still being sold new as recently as 3 or so years ago. My brother has the Sony TC-WE475; pretty pretty plastic-y and cheaply built, though it gets the job done. I'd hold out for better though.I'm glad to hear that some musicians are checking out of the whole CD vs. Download angst and going for an easy-to-use format with no DRM issues. Good luck!

Dismord's picture

I notice someone else commented on the unreliability of the Nakamichi gear they'd owned. My experience has been the opposite. I've owned a range of Nakamichi cassette decks from the 480 on up to my present Dragon which is still running to the original specification on the original heads after decades of heavy use. Some years ago I bought a new transport/head mechanism as insurance in case the mechanics of the Dragon finally wore out. Well, the spare part is still sitting un-opened in it's packaging ( and no, I won't sell it!) A game I enjoy playing with the Dragon is fooling audiophiles they're listening to CD. Amazing how often, if I use a well recorded metal tape, they fall for it. Cassettes an inferior technology? Well maybe but but I'm still getting a lot of enjoyment out of mine - best money I ever spent on a piece of gear in fact I'm now picking up cassettes at garage sales for peanuts.

Two Headed Fool's picture

My TP-114 will be connected to my K-406 for another 15 years. Perhaps death of either will separate the relationship; or desire for a better pre-amp. AM baby; you'll be missed. And the ergonomic remote. And the occasional D- (talk about a longevity code in a model number!) CD connected... dual cassette deck = fool cheap dreck. Save your money and time and buy a better product.

Mediageek's picture

Whatever deck you choose, take into consideration that one of the big limitations on fidelity is the original recording or duplication itself. The best decks of the cassette era were capable of recording quality that far surpassed what you heard from store-bought prerecorded cassettes.Given that you seem primarily interested in listening to pre-recorded indie releases, the duplication quality likely will vary quite a bit. Some of the old Naks had adjustable azimuth alignment which can help squeeze the best fidelity from a tape. Otherwise sound quality can be the luck of the draw depending on how well aligned the source recorder was.BTW, I've had decent luck with the Denon 555 mentioned above, as well as my Pioneer CT-W606DR which has digital NR that can be better than Dolby, believe it or not.

Jonathan Cohen's picture

Well I jump on the tape wagon and I got myself a 87 Denon DR-M30HX. I don't like using NR and honestly tape noise is not an issue for me at all. I got myself a copy of DSOTH for like one buck and it is amazing. It is close to vinyl quality without the ticks and pops but not quite there.I'm happy with my purchase since I got myself a good deck and it will give my turntable its run for its money.

george's picture

Oy Vey! The more I read around these blogs and forums, the dumber I get. Is this magazine interested in high performance audio, or has it become a stomping ground for complete nuttiness? The articles are blather, randoming droning on about this useless thing versus that useless thing. Two pages of blather about some deaf old man who makes things up about some oddball perception on things that are priced so into the unkown arena. There is nothing anymore to do with high performance audio. It's all irrational boredome. It's worse each month. Who are these bores? Including the forum members, the writers of prose with ZERO audio knowledge. One writer, actually uses test equipment John A. All the others blather on relentlessly about mind numbing imaginary artifacts, that can't be.

Jerry's picture

We're supposed to be going forward, not BACK Stephen. Why the heck would ANY musician only release their music on cassette?? There is no logical reason.

Stephen Mejias's picture

We're supposed to be going forward, not BACK Stephen. Why the heck would ANY musician only release their music on cassette?? There is no logical reason.I tried answering that question here:
http://blog.stereophile.com/stephenmejias/why_cassettes/There are some interesting comments after the post, as well. Maybe going back is a way of going forward.

Robert's picture

Cassette tapes, especially metal and chrome tapes, are the best way to make recordings from analog sources like high-end turntables and reel-to-reel tapes. Cassette tapes sound great in cars stereos like the Lexus's Mark Levinson car stereos and the Acura's OEM'd Alpine car stereos. The recordings sound smooth without digital artifacts. It's good that there are still New Old Stock (NOS) high bias blank tapes for sale at mom and pop record stores. The best cassette decks being made today are the Tascam 202mkV, Tascam CD-A750, Tascam CD-A550, and Tascam CC-222SLmkII. Get one while you still can.

The Audio Dufus's picture

I see that I have the final word here, which is the way I like it. Now that Stephen has reminded me why he wants to listen to cassettes on his hifi, I say IT IS WHAT IT IS, BABY. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? Some really great bands started out as nobodys, which is the way they like it. Limiting yourself to cassette won't make you famous though, any good producer will tell you that. Audiogeeks are a strange bunch. So territorial of their own superior understanding of audio equipment---though they usually can't play a lick of music and don't have an education in electrical engineering to appreciate the difficulties involved in creating the illusion we so love. Stereophile is about the advancement of the music reproduction industry. It let's me know about new developments in the Hobby. Is there room for improvement? Yes, of course. Is cassette the answer? No it's not---but there are some qualities to analog reprodction that hopefully can be brought into the next generation of digital reproduction.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Why the heck would ANY musician only release their music on cassette??Ultimately, I feel it doesn't matter why they're doing it. All that matters is knowing that they are doing it and having a desire to appreciate the work. My question remains: If a favorite artist releases an album on cassette, would you want to hear that album?My answer to that question is yes.

Mark Fleischmann's picture

I have a Nakamichi DR-3, a two-head deck. Good motors, sounds great. The only purpose of a third head is to monitor the recording in progress. You don't need to do this if you just clean the heads first. There's a bunch of them on ebay including a number with "buy now" links so you can definitely lay your hands on it if you really want it.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Hi Mark.
I'm looking for a deck that offers azimuth adjustment, such as the CD-1, DR-1, or CR-7a.

The Audio Dufus's picture

How could you all continue to write after I had already posted the final comment? You people have no respect. I mean, really...don't you read other peoples comments or just your own. Anyhoo, after mulling it all over in my head, the problem with analog equipment is reliability. In a Hobby filled with Obsessive-Compulsive behavior, the mere fact that the analog source inherently decays rests firmly in the back of one's mind. Be it the needle, the record, the tape, or the tube---the unavoidable law of entropy prevails. Does it sound as good as it did yesterday? Is something going wrong? Do I need to put a new needle on? Are the heads getting dirty? Is the tape getting to old? For the Audio Enthusiast, analog just isn't good for your well-being. And when did a record get more expensive than a CD? Well, these are just my thoughts, for what little it's worth. Maybe this cassette thing is getting a little stale. It's like hashing through a used stereo magazine. These decks mattered 20 years ago.

Glenn's picture

Once in a while on eBay you will run into an honest seller who bought the deck new and took care of it. It's best to buy from someone who bought it new and is the only owner. I have found two Sony TC-K615S (has Dolby S) at very good prices and both are like new. They are made in Japan (important) and produce high quality results with premium cassettes (you also have to shop eBay for these).With such a deck you can skip Dolby because the tape is so quiet. And they are great fun to play around with. Tape decks required user involvement and that was a great part of the fun when making recordings.

Bomba's picture

With my apologies to the Audio Dufus for continuing this thread, come on Stephen, the real reason you want a tape deck is because you're under the apparent shared dilusion that it will make you seem edgy and hip and this will somehow help you bag a hot woman. It won't my friend. It just makes you look like a 'tard, and those bands you're listening to on cassettes, also 'tards. In fact I wonder why the blatantly obvious hasn't already crossed your mind, if these so called bands are releasing music on cassette tapes, there's probably a very good reason for this...I can only hope you no longer have that fine Exposure amp if this is what you've sunk to. It deserves a better fate!

Persnikitty's picture

Look for an Aiwa cassette deck on ebay. The best were the models (F)660, (F)770, and (F)990. The 660 had everything you need, and nothing you don't. Sam Tellig and his cat would like this one. Three heads, dolby b/c, hx pro, settings for all tape types, and the recorded sound was indistinguishable from original FM broadcasts or records. (My hearing measured by an audiologist is 5 db more sensitive than average). The 770 had another feature or two, and the 990 had too many. The most common failing on these cassette decks was a broken rubber belt(after 20 years usage), but you can get complete sets of belts from mcmelectronics.com for $10 or so, an easy repair. Aiwa also made a model WX220, with dual transports, great for mixdowns. When we compare technologies--red book CDs, 24/96, vinyl disks, open reel or cassette--is it the technology that matters, or is it the execution of the equipment manufacture and the care taken to produce a quality recording? So, forget the Nak, get an Aiwa. They're so good....

Buy a pre-loved Nakamichi's picture

My advice is as the above. I bought a Nak. 582 on a well known auction site in 2004 and had it serviced by Naks. U.K. agent (cost about 2/3 the auction cost of the deck). It was well worth it. If you are serious about cassettes then a Nak. is the only answer. All other makes are mere facsimilies. Any 3-head model with bias control from the 70/80's would do the job (if in essentially good condition). Suggest 581/582, ZX7/9, BX3.

Paul S.'s picture

"I'm looking for a deck that offers azimuth adjustment"I agree. Azimuth is so important. I remember constantly tweaking with a small screwdriver back in the days when I had a deck. I would have loved to have a little knob on the front with the word "azimuth" above it! But I was a poor college student...

Stephen Mejias's picture

Paul: Yeah, that screwdriver tweak is exactly what I'm trying to avoid.

Eric Shook's picture

Just found me a Nakamichi CR-1A in super minty condition. It's screaming for my old Bel Biv Devoe tapes.

Stephen Mejias's picture

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned came in the 8th grade via Bel Biv DeVoe: Never trust a big butt and a smile.

!!'s picture

Anyone know if there were commercial big label (or small) pre-recorded albums wideley released on metal type IV? I am aware of albums released on BASF chrome, but at 120μs

Marty's picture

Many of the bands I like only release their new music on reel-to-reel tapes or 8-tracks.

Stuart Cameron's picture

I have several decks at home, Nakamichi CR-7, DR-10, a Revox B215-S and a Sony Walkman Pro so you could say I've got it bad for the humble cassette.Vinyl is my primary listening source, tape is great for archiving, making mixtapes, portability and frankly sounds spectacularly good when you can record onto something like a TDK MA-XG, Maxell Metal Vertex, SSMM and That's Suono blanks.Last weekend I managed to pick up 450 blanks, lightly used Agfa/BASF/Maxell/Memorex/TDK and That's.Sealed blanks are not difficult to find but are becoming increasingly expensive, thank goodness for the Phoenix Audio Tape Company, who currently produce a chrome and metal tape.There are a few companies still manufacturing decks but, of course, nothing like the halcyon 1980s but you never know: cassette is cool once more, it's popping up in advertising, fashion and the indie scene.What's all this fuss about digital anyway? The best site for the cassette afficionado bar none is Tapeheads.net

I LOVE MAXELL HITACHI's picture

For those who think digital is going forward think again, as much of the downloadable stuff, if not all of it sounds worse then a cassette, the entire internet seems to be filled with low bitrate mp3s.This is the whole reason I love my CDs and ultimately making good old mixtapes. There is nothing that sounds as good as a Maxell UD or Hitachi UD or SR, recorded on a Sony TC FX211 deck. I mix my CDs in Sound Forge, and then roll the mixes off on to a good maxell or TDK tape with NR. When the selections are played back with the NR off, there is a special kind of sound that beats mp3 by a million miles.If you love tape like I do, and have a passion to enjoy music the way it should be experienced, then checkout tapeheads.net, and http://www.phxaudiotape.com.

speakerman1's picture

I have 6 decks. They are Yamahas and Naks. I just bought a Nak LX-5. It isn't so much going backwards as it is not being a sheep and following everyone else. The tape medium gives you a different sound than digital. You control your peaks and not someone else. The warmth of the music from a tape is a lot different than the sound you get from a CD that has been mixed so that on some it doesn't even sound like something you want to hear twice.To all the nay sayers. Make a tape on a nice deck with a nice tape and see what you get. It sounds better than any CD that is for sure. I'm glad companies are starting to make tapes again. I'll have to check out the forum mentioned above.

Stereophile Readership's picture

@speakerman1. do you realize how idiotic you look making comments like "I'm glad companies are starting to make tapes again. I'll have to check out the forum mentioned above." when it's you who is repackaging old tape stock and selling it, and it's you that runs www.phxaudiotape.com?

Eric Shook's picture

This Nak CR-1A sounds AMAZING!!!Albeit the sound is very much dependent on the tapes played. I know for a fact that I could easily fool someone into thinking they are listening to CD, as I nearly fooled myself -- and I am my own prankster. So far the well of information on high fidelity tape playback runs about as deep as it does with vinyl. Lots of parallel magic. My local Habitat for Humanity store has a donated tape/vinyl section. Records are $1, tapes .25cents.OH...The Bel Biv DeVore tape was rockin' last night!

Des-Lab TapeHeads.Net's picture

Without having thoroughly read all of the above comments, let me just say that the irony is not lost on me. The Stereophile community evidently sees nothing wrong with taking a condescending view of tape users-especially those who want to spend $20,$30 , or more per tape when they themselves think nothing of paying hundreds of dollars for a set of gold plated RCA cords. The underlying rationale is essentially identical: to get the best sound possible. No doubt the cassette format has been negatively stigmatized; images of a dropout ridden Guns-And-Roses tape tangled up around the capstan lead one to question anyones motivation for embracing the format. However, as with any format, much of the sound is dependent on the quality and care given to it. The cassette format-if used with top notch gear and tapes, with the proper care and in conjunction with a good setup, can and does sound just as good as any other high end analog setup. I strongly urge anyone to give it a second look.

nakdoc's picture

Listening to music is enjoyable. I don't care how you find that joy. Those of you with digital bents, consider that dubbing to tape "fixes" most of what we hate about digital. Try it before you blast me. Tape hiss is wonderful dither. The vintage audio and tape communities have found ways to keep the good decks going at reasonable prices, but you must do some work to find the resources. naks.com is a great place for Nakamichi support. As a disclaimer, I service cassette decks professionally. My post here is more to encourage those interested in trying or returning to cassettes to do so, not to drum up business. In my 35 years in this business I have heard sounds and effects that escape rational descriptions. I think directional cables are BS but I've heard bi-wiring work. Tape is the real thing, perhaps because so much good music has tape somewhere in the recording chain.

perry's picture

Wow, so much hate and angst from the digital community. A little full of themselves that anything older is obviously inferior. So sad. On a minor note, a quality cassette deck(s), and quality tapes are a better investment in the long run than any "new" gear. While this probably doesn't matter to Stephen for his use, it's bit of comfort to me to know that if I can decide that my cassette hobby is not worth it to me anymore, I can easily sell everything, and get what I put into it and probably more. Try doing that with mp3's....BTW, I didn't see the Revox decks mentioned here, the B215 is a tank that also sounds wonderful, but alas doesn't have the playback azimuth adjustment he desires. Beware that most azimuth adjustments are on the record head. The Dragon is by far the best deck to play tapes made on other decks.

Charles Peterson's picture

Check out the various Nak resources on the web. I have subscribed to the daily digest of naktalk@naks.com, their website is www.naks.com. There are several highly regarded Nak repair places, top of the list in reputation and price is ESLabs.com. You can get a complete rebuild there, but beware it will cost something like the new list price of the deck times inflation. Almost any Nak you buy on eBay will have problems. I got lucky on a RX505, just had a slight startup squeak that fixed itself after a few days use. I was unlucky on a rustbucket Dragon that ate tapes, but got the seller to take it back. Beware that Dragon is both notoriously unreliable and expensive to fix. Incredible when it works, though. The upside on Naks is the sweet sound and support community. They will never die. You can get a custom IR remote adapter for many old wired remote units.

David MacRunnel's picture

I have always found that R2R decks give FAR better results in both short term and long term for recording.

Joshua W. Miles's picture

YO! And Aloha again! Owning a Nac Dragon and BX 125 has been a joy for many years. Try both! Just be sure you have a good technician near by to fix it. The belts regularly need to be replaced. They are available on line though. If you want a step up, I can not recommend enough the TANDBERG TCD 440A!!!!! Unbeatable, hands down!!!! Unfortunately, No one will touch them for repairs. (Especially in Hawaii) I have had to learn the inner workings on my own, to keep it in top condition. The Actilinear head alignment is a bugger. No easy task. This is a machine for the tinker minded audiophile, that doesn't mind spending the time to get the absolute finest performance. "HANDS DOWN!"J

Jeff Glotzer's picture

I still have a Nak Dr-3 that I haven't used for years. There are so many 80's punk, rock, jazz and other recordings I haven't really listened to since the mid-nineties. As tempted as I may be to donate this, I will thank you for reminding me that there are many great recordings that need to be mined in one way or another! Not to mention the tons of live recordings from early REM or the Replacements to the Black Crowes...

nakdoc's picture

donate? hmmm. I might offer a basic Nak 480 or BX1 for next to nothing. The question Stephen, is are you stepping outside the lines when you use a vintage piece in your stereo? Modern cassette decks have strayed from the solid construction and precision of the 1980s. In audio we typically expect our new stuff to keep the best of the old AND be better. Unfortunately for cassette, all we have new are boxes built to a pricepoint for what little market remains. The cassette, downloads, and CD-R are the only three open architecture formats that allow musicians to bypass record companies. Of the three, which truly sounds the best?

Paul Luscusk's picture

Joshu, You are so right about the Tanberg TCD 440A BTW you should check out Scan Industrys in Van Nuys CA. for repairs Vedar has been MR. Tanberg in So Cal for many years.

joyce's picture

hello///loud///louder///loudest

Perigo's picture

I have the Nakamichi Dragon deck. A fantastic product that revitalizes every pre-recorded tape.I bought it secod hand from a friend that used rarely. Never repaired, never problems at all! I don't know why this brand has a so low consideration for reliability in tape-deck fans...

REPHLEX's picture

Just recorded some vinyl and FLACs to metal cassette with dolby C for the hell of it. Definitely unique and different than playing them on my S9. I might have to start recording some more tapes to listen to at work!

Joshua W. Miles's picture

Thanx Paul!!!!! I will look that up ASAP!!! I wonder if they can take a look at my 3008A Control Amp. It dropped a Chanel a few months back. Again, nobody in Hawaii will look at it. By the way, I also have a Dayton/Wright SPA preamp that sounds like a dream but, has a hum in the phono stages. Know anyone???? Sounds to freaking good to let go. LONG LIVE TANDBERG!!!!!Aloha!

Johnny2Bad's picture

Ignore the naysayers, Stephen. It ain't about the hardware, or the format ... it's about the software.If there is just one audio recording you have/is only available on cassette, that's one solid, perfectly good reason to look at a cassette deck to play it. Period.As for what to buy ... check out some of the TASCAM single-well studio decks ... lots available on eBay, surplus from Studios, Colleges, Museums, Art Galleries, to name just a few. The 112MKII; 112RMKII; 122MKII and 130 are good choices.I have to agree about the Naks ... and this is nothing new; they had similar issues even when new ... reliability can be an issue. Having said that, there is such a thing as a good, working Nak. Choose carefully.For more vintage gear, The TEAC C-2 is outstanding, as is the Z-5000 and V-8000S. YOu can seek anything of the V- and Z- series (versus many A- series). If you can find one (very rare) the A-800, A-850 & A-860 are outstanding. An A-850 I used on loan was the best sounding deck I ever heard.

stu Gatz's picture

I have their high bias 8 track player

Scorpion 8's picture

The cassette format LIVES, despite naysayers to the contrary. It is enduring, produces very good sound, allows the user to interact in the creation of a recording, and most of all is mesmerizing. It's not sterile like digital formats. Sadly it only lacks the convenience of play or download on demand. That is it's true and ONLY shortcoming. As a moderator of the Tapeheads.net analog recording forum, it's very easy to see how many analog lovers there still are out there. The industry of course is only interested in disposable gadgets that they can have made for pennies off-shore. My love of 80's era silver Sony cassette decks offers many superb examples of great engineering, craftsmanship and fantastic sound. A Sony TC-K81 bows to no other earthly deck. Highly recommended.

LetThemSleep's picture

LOL!!! It always cracks me up when people casually kick the cassette to the curb (or, moreover, anything they don't have a clue about). In the "age of information" being clueless is amazingly prevalent. Good on them! LOL!!!

iamhifi's picture

For those who think that digital is better, well if you are up there with Accuphase, Essoteric, Burnmaster, and other 6K plus Cd Players, then I agree. Back off saying that Nak decks are junk and need service. I am one of those that own the 6K Cd player and 2 Dragons, 1 CR-7A, 1 CR-5A, 1 ZX-9, 1 682ZX, Revox A810 Reel to Reel. All are overhaul by ES Labs but the 682ZX. By no means my decks are equal to my Accuphase, but are that close, and I am willing to bet that any of my Dragons will outperforme many CD players. If you don't have a properly working cassette deck don't no way in hell you will not what I'm talking about. I kind of feel bad for your ignorance in this department. Many people thoght that LP records were a thing of the past, think again. It is all about music,Angel

Ann O'Nymous's picture

Gee, that speakerman1 guy sounds like a bit of a con artist what with having his site recommended but then pretending he's never seen it before.

Stephen Mejias's picture

I think some evidence for the resurgence in popularity of the cassette deck can be found in the upward trending prices on eBay. A couple of years ago, Nak decks were selling for under $100. In the last month, I saw prices for a Nakamichi CD-1 go from $150 to $280 to $340! I don't even know what they're going for now. I stopped looking!

CheckYourself's picture

"Stereophile Readership" first, I doubt you represent Stereophile's readership. Your comment should be struck for that reason alone. "Ann O'Nymous" perhaps you should familiarize yourself w/ the meaning of the term "con artist".The facts are that many audiophiles STILL have Nakamichi Dragon's, CR7s, Sony TC-KA3ES, TC-KA7ES, Tandberg 3014A's, Revox B215's, etc. & still use them & still know they sound better than the consumer and professional standalone CD burners slapped up on the market; not to mention the end result of recording to PC with anything less than a top notch DAW at a bit depth and sampling rate that exceed the Red/Orange Book Standard. Whatever personal gripes you have with speakerman1 are not a dismissal of the fact that Phoenix offers to (me) the audiophile, METAL and CHROME blank cassettes. Neither will your bad attitudes turn off all the folks who are enjoying the true analog sound of cassette tapes and say so on many forums, not just TapeHeads.net.Next time, try being constructive.

JWilson's picture

"I'm glad companies are starting to make tapes again. I'll have to check out the forum mentioned above."for all that this implies I would have to agree, this speakerman1 guy is not only deluded but asinine.anyone got a list of companies still manufacturing audiophile grades of tapes for something like the nak pictured? and what kind of repairs are we talking about on naks anyways, i'm curious what the common problem areas are to be watching out for

John Gossman's picture

First off, who enters forums and doesn't, when possible, use their own name. Secondly, after 31 years of service, (the cassette player, and me) my 581 is still chugging along faithfully having only needed a $200 tune up and play head replacement, now only needing pinch rollers. I now have my LX-5 running very good. I'll be putting new belts on it and re-alligning the heads in the coming weeks. They are still among the best pieces of gear I've used or heard. They are maybe a little less reliable than some others, but as has been noted, there were few decks that approached their sophistication. All and all, buy a Nak. Some people get so lost in the sophistication of them that they lost sight in the best part of Nakamichi gear across the board, they really play music very well. And yes, I WILL fix up my 581 and sell it to you for the right price. You've been a positive addition to Stereophile. Enjoy your cassettes.

rgbargee's picture

I have owned a Nak ZX-9 since 1985. It has been repaired once because some belts cracked and some lubrication was necessary. I consider it to be the best Nakamichi ever made. I can control bias, azimuth and level on each track independently and when I use a good source tape it plays music wonderfully. I have made copies of CDs and at least in some cases prefer the sound from the cassette. The Naktalk website continues to be a great resource and I am thankful that I have kept tapes, if stored correctly and played on a good machine they will keep forever.

A real head turner's picture

Indeed it was extremely interesting for me to read that post. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.

escort brazil's picture

I would like to read a bit more soon. BTW, pretty nice design you have at this site, but how about changing it from time to time?

paradoxguy's picture

I am admittedly confused. I have seen many Nakamichi cassette decks on eBay auction. I own the Dragon, 680ZX, and the entry-level CR-1 and can attest the CR-1 has truer fidelity than many, if not most, midlevel decks of other manufacturers. Why not a CR-1 or CR-2 or another Nak deck of relatively recent vintage?

405line's picture

You have some good and well informed friends.

I'm a bit late to this debate methinks, however did you get your Nakamichi CD-1 cassette deck in the end? Was "the thing" you were refering to the ability to adjust the playback head azimuth from a user adjustable knob on the front panel? It was a feature only made available on three nakamichi machines, the CD-1, DR-1 (essentially the same decks) and the CR7 (one of which I bought S/H about 4 years ago), it's the single best feature on any cassette deck I've ever used and not found on any other tape decks i've seen. A unique feature and well worth waiting for, essential as far as I as am concerned if you have a mixed bag of pre-recorded tapes recorded on various machines. The CD1 also has 3 heads (crystalloy), a dual capstan transport with tape housing pressure pad lifter as found on their top decks (but not the direct drive capstans of some of the exotica), the CD2 is a single capstan 2 head decks, the CD1.5 had the 3 head transport but not the azimuth adjustment control, but let's not forget....they are still Nakamichi tape decks. What's more you can still get most of the Nak decks fully serviced and/or repaired as parts seem to be still available.

You can have the best cassette deck ever made, but if your playback head azimuth is even a little ways "off" with respect to your original recording head azimuth you're not going to get the best HF response from your recordings made on another deck. A much cheaper replay deck that was aligned to the original recording azimuth would likely out perform it, such is the problem with tape azimuth.

The Dragon has an automatic azimuth system which I understand generally works very well but sometimes struggles to find an azimuth "lock" with certain material.

Of course a S/H Yamaha 580SE and a set of precision screwdrivers to tweak the head azimuth (if necessary) is a much more cost effective solution if you're only interested in playback. This may a good solution if you are intent on playing mainly pre recored commercially produced  tapes or if your all of your recordings are made on the same deck.

I bought a Nakamichi CD-1 this week from e-bay Germany, the price was less than I would have expected to pay for a former top-of-its-line Nakamichi and it included a 1 year guarantee (ha!), they do not appear all that often and I know I would have kicked in the future if I had seen an affordable one and let it go pass. The price on these decks may be so reasonable because because the CD model range did not have the traditional high end battleship styling that looks expensive no matter how old the product or maybe they're just naff...but for sure the CD1 does have the ultimate cassette deck killer feature!

spyder1's picture

 

Stephen,

Pearl Audio Video of Portland, OR has a Nakamichi Cassette Deck, that is in excellent condition. It can be viewed at www. pearlaudiovideo.com, DEMO SALE!

Paul

spyder1's picture

Stephen,

Pearl Audio Video, Portland, OR has a Nakamichi Cassett Deck in excellent shape. It can be viewed at their website, www.pearlaudiovideo.com , DEMO SALE! I hope this info is of some help.

Paul

Stephen Mejias's picture

Thanks very much, but I just can't afford $800 for a Dragon, unfortunately.

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